Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sports

Dutch captain forward van Persie doubtful vs. Argentina

SAO PAULO, Brazil — Dutch captain and all-time top scorer Robin van Persie is in doubt for today's World Cup semifinal against Argentina with a stomach problem.

Van Persie trained separately Tuesday with defender Daryl Janmaat, and coach Louis van Gaal said both were suffering "stomach and intestinal problems."

Van Gaal said he would not rush into deciding whether van Persie is fit to play at Sao Paulo's Itaquerao Stadium against the Messi-led Argentina.

"We have more than a day (to decide)," Van Gaal said. "Van Persie is a very important player for us."

Van Persie scored three times in the first two Dutch matches, including a spectacular diving header against defending champion Spain that was instantly hailed as one of the goals of the tournament. But the Manchester United striker has struggled since being suspended for the Netherlands' last Group B match after picking up two yellow cards.

Against Argentina, he seeks to break a remarkable drought for a player of his caliber — he has never scored in the knockout stage of a major tournament.

Dutch midfield enforcer Nigel de Jong trained and could play against Argentina. He left the round of 16 match against Mexico with a torn groin muscle and it was originally thought he'd miss at least two weeks.

Van Gaal, who will leave the Dutch team after the tournament to take the job at Manchester United, said he has developed a plan to beat Argentina in a rematch of the 1978 World Cup final, won by Argentina.

Van Gaal has been flexible with his tactical formations and substitutions. He has switched between a defensive 5-3-2 system and traditional Dutch attacking 4-3-3 formation, moved striker Dirk Kuyt to defense and, most remarkably, substituted in bigger goalkeeper Tim Krul for Jasper Cillessen for the quarterfinal shootout against Costa Rica because he figured Krul was a better penalty stopper. So far, all of Van Gaal's changes have worked.

Argentina moves: Coach Alejandro Sabella said Enzo Perez is likely to replace injured wing Angel di Maria for today's game. Sabella didn't give his lineup but said it is "very probable" that Perez will come in for di Maria, as he did in the quarterfinal win over Belgium.

Sabella said defender Marcos Rojo also could start after serving a suspension. Striker Sergio Aguero will likely be on the bench as he returns from injury.

Not logical: Like everyone else, Sabella said he couldn't explain Brazil's collapse in its 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany. Sabella says the best explanation he has for the result was that "football is illogical."

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